From the Archives: Coors is Safer than Tea

Coors is safer than tea by Les Earnest
Alexi Grewal won a gold medal in cycling at the Los Angeles Olympics shortly after admitting that he took ephedrine during an international stage race. This was facilitated by U.S. Olympic Committee and cycling officials who had a conflict of interest that would not be fixed for another 16 years. A number of other political machinations were also involved.

Originally published in the August 1988 issue of Cyclops USA
Republished by Pappillon with the permission of Les Earnest.
[Bracketed statements in italics below…are explanatory remarks added in November 2005.]
1984 was a banner year for cycling — after a 72 year drought, U.S. riders won eight Olympic medals. It was the year that the U.S. Cycling Federation (USCF) adopted detailed medical control regulations for the first time. It was also a year of unsurpassed political skullduggery among the officers and directors of the Federation.
Up until then, USCF drug testing regulations said, in effect, “Thou shalt not take drugs,” but specified no testing procedure. I was working on more complete drug testing regulations when an incident just before the Olympics pointed up inadequacies in the drug testing program. The sixth stage of the Coors International Bicycle Classic that year was a circuit road race in Aspen, Colorado, which was also the home town of rider Alexi Grewal, who tested positive for a prohibited substance after that race. This was an awkward situation because he was a member of the U.S. Olympic Team.
As I eventually figured out, no riders could have tested positive at the Coors race before 1983, even though drug testing was required by international regulations. I had started officiating there in 1978 when this race was still called the Red Zinger. There was a great show made of medical control in the Red Zinger/Coors. Top finishers and a few other riders selected at random in each race had to provide urine specimens under the surveillance of a race official. I found it remarkable that no one ever tested positive, given that there are many non-prescription drugs that contain prohibited substances. In fact, after a couple of years of this, I asked UCI International Commissaire Artie Greenberg how the riders managed to keep so clean. His reply was, “Don’t ask.”
Of course, I immediately became more inquisitive and eventually learned that the promoter was unwilling or unable to pay for lab tests. Instead, after urine samples were collected, they were carefully flushed down the nearest toilet. While the “toilet test” was a great waste of time for all involved, it helped keep up the pretense that this was a “clean race” and probably deterred some riders who didn’t know about the testing procedures.
One rider managed to get suspended for failing the “toilet test.” This happened to Australian Phil Anderson in 1978 in Vail when he was distracted by a young lady’s invitation to visit her place just after he won the race and somehow didn’t return to take the test. As near as I can tell, the toilet test continued to be used at the Coors race through 1982. Real testing was carried out for at least some stages beginning in 1983, when rider Mike King of Ohio got caught for ingesting ephedrine.
In 1984, race officials learned of the results of Grewal’s positive test from the Aspen race the next day, just before the Washington Park Criterium in Denver. A retest of the second sealed sample was immediately called for and Grewal’s manager, Len Pettyjohn, went to the Roche Laboratory to observe the testing procedures. I went too, given that it would be my responsibility to suspend Grewal if this test also turned out positive. We watched the testing from the opening of the bottle to the announcement by the technician that there was a prohibited substance in the sample. Neither Pettyjohn nor I knew enough about lab testing procedures to understand what we were observing, however.
As soon as Alexi’s disqualification was announced, he told the press that he had drunk a special Chinese herbal tea called “Chi Power” that had been given to him by a woman who regularly gave him after-race massages. He showed them the box, which listed ephedra as a principal ingredient. The name of the prohibited stimulant “ephedrine” is derived from ephedra. Alexi seemed to be doing his best to convict himself.
However, under the UCI rules at that time Grewal could be suspended only on the basis of urine tests showing that he had taken a prohibited substance. As Chairman Board of Control, I was obligated to suspend him for 30 days, which would take him out of the Olympics. I issued the suspension, but also suggested to his manager that they appeal it and make the testers prove their conclusion. He did.
I had already conducted one investigation involving Grewal a short time before. It was no secret that he was not a favorite of the coaching staff, especially National Team Coach Eddie Borysewicz. Since bicycle road racing is basically a team sport, the coaches want team riders, whereas Alexi was a loner. Shortly after the Olympic Selection Races in the Spokane area, I received a report from a plausible source claiming that Eddie B. had counseled other leading riders to try to keep Alexi from finishing high enough to qualify. I interviewed some other people who confirmed much of the story, but decided that official action was not needed inasmuch as Alexi had qualified in spite of the possible conspiracy.

A Political Snit
Given that there was an appeal of the doping suspension, a jury was needed to hear it. This had to be done in a hurry because the Olympics were about to start and the bicycle road race, Grewal’s specialty, was to be on the first day. Among the bureaucrats, there had been a lot of planning and political maneuvering leading up to the ’84 Olympic Games, all of which complicated the situation.
Tom Boyden, the Appeals Chairman, was supposed to appoint juries, but unfortunately he was sulking over an earlier run-in with me and declined to act. Boyden’s pique arose shortly before the Coors when I thwarted his attempt to appoint fellow Texan Willy Coy as appeals jury foreman for that race. I knew that there were two main things wrong with his proposal: the concept and the individual.
I had been a race official at the Red Zinger/Coors Classic for six years by this time and had observed the various ways that appeals of race decisions had been handled. Usually, a panel of senior race officials from the women’s race would review appeals from the men’s race and vice versa. Of course, this arrangement gave an opportunity for mutual back-scratching among the officials, but it seemed to produce just decisions nearly all of the times I saw it used.
I expected that Ian Emmerson, who was to be Chief Commissaire of the men’s race, would not take kindly to the use of a different jury arrangement. Emmerson was a British commissaire who had run the Milk Race in Britain for a number of years. I had appointed Beth Estes as the women’s Chief Commissaire and knew her views regarding the proposed jury foreman: Willy Coy and she had tangled wildly the year before when she was chief referee of the Tour of Texas and he was chief judge.
The political picture had been further muddied by incidents at the Tour of Texas, a few months before the Coors. I had decided to try a new officiating arrangement there, using three officials instead of one to make the main race decisions. The Board of Control had selected Andy Bohlmann to be chief referee and the Texas district representative selected her husband,
Willy Coy, and Tom Boyden to complete the trio.
Unfortunately, that arrangement led to an instant disaster, with Boyden and Coy doing their officious best to screw things up. On March 9, 1984, shortly after the race started, I sent a telegram telling them to revert to the traditional chief referee structure and requesting that Andy Bohlmann continue as chief referee.
Tom Boyden’s reaction to that was to appeal my decision, even though it was clearly not appealable under USCF regulations and he, as Appeals Chair, had a gross conflict-of-interest in ruling otherwise. Tom arranged for a hearing of his appeal, then both presented evidence on his own behalf and, acting as Appeals Chairman, advised the jury on which evidence they could consider. Later, he reviewed the hearing results, which he claimed to have “won,” and approved them. When asked if he thought that this was a conflict-of-interest situation, he asserted that it clearly was not!
It appeared to me that Tom Boyden had undertaken the appointment of Willy Coy as jury foreman at Coors as a set up: he shared Coy’s intense dislike of Beth Estes, whose decisions Coy would get to review. I tried to reason with Tom about not proceeding with this appointment. Others, including Coors promoter Michael Aisner and Colorado district representative Yvonne vanGent also got into the discussion. USCF President Phil Voxland then decided that he should settle the dispute, so he wrote a letter saying that the decision was entirely up to Tom, which would have meant that Coy was to be Foreman.
I had taken no official position on the issue up to that point, but seeing a disaster in the making, I immediately wrote a letter to Voxland noting that the race permit for Coors had been issued over my signature and that I had decided that no special jury foreman would be needed. This was admittedly a high-handed act on my part. Tom and Phil frothed a bit, as I expected, then gave up.
In view of that recent history, it was not surprising that Tom Boyden would not appoint a jury now that I needed one. Given that I was effectively the prosecutor, it didn’t seem right for me to appoint the jury. In fact, it was precisely that issue that had gotten me into cycling politics five years earlier – it had been standard practice in the USCF for the prosecutor to appoint the jury, which was a gross conflict-of-interest. I had managed to get that bylaw fixed and did not wish to revert.
Free-lancing a bit, I finally got USCF President Phil Voxland to appoint a jury from among disinterested race officials who were present at the Coors Classic.

Showdown in Boulder
Alexi Grewal’s hearing before the hastily-assembled jury of appeals took place in a large hotel in Boulder, Colorado beginning at about 6:30 PM on July 22, 1984, the last day of the Coors Classic. Prior to the hearing, USCF Executive Director Dave Prouty had helped Grewal obtain the services of Dr. Robert Voy, who was Chief Medical officer of the U.S. Olympic Committe, to act as an expert defense witness for Grewal. I called on the pharmacist who supervised the drug testing process at the Roche Laboratory.
[Given that Dave Prouty had a responsibility to enforce anti-doping regulations and that this was also Dr. Voy’s primary responsibility in the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), it is remarkable that they were working together to help Grewal beat the doping charge. Of course, given that winning Olympic medals is a primary goal of both USCF and USOC, members of these organizations had a conflict of interest regarding anti-doping enforcement. Dr. Voy, who apparently viewed the testing of USOC athletes as something that he alone should do, had an additional motivation in this case – the hiring of an outside lab to do the testing, who he evidently viewed as a competitor. This conflict would not be removed until 16 years later, at the time of  the 2000 Olympic Games, when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its U.S. counterpart, USADA, took over the responsibility for enforcement.
In the early 1980s I had attempted to negotiate with Dr. Voy on behalf of USCF to get drug testing done at certain events.  He consistently declined to commit to anything. He resigned from USOC in the late 1980s and in 1991 published a book titled “Drugs, Sports and Politics” (ISBN 0880114096) that blamed a number of people for the ongoing failure to enforce anti-doping measures. However Dr. Voy seems to have overlooked his own complicity in this matter, as exemplified by the Grewal case. In 1998 I saw a newspaper article saying that he was running a sports medicine clinic in Las Vegas. Seems like the right kind of place for him.]
During the course of the hearing, it was brought out that asthma medication that Grewal was taking and had disclosed at the time of the test, namely Albuterol, contained a substance in the same general class as ephedrine. Dr. Voy asserted that the testing methods used could not reliably distinguish between the prohibited substance and the asthma medication, given that both were in the class of drugs known as phenylethylamines. Dr. Voy claimed that mass spectrophotometry should have been used to distinguish the two.
The Roche Labs witness remarked that his lab didn’t have such equipment and his attempted refutation of Voy’s claims were not sufficiently convincing. I later learned that some of Voy’s testimony was apparently a bit “imaginative,” but I didn’t have anyone there to refute him at that time. The jury went into seclusion around midnight and deliberated until near dawn. They finally decided that the tests had not been sufficiently discriminating, so the suspension was overturned.
I had mixed feelings about the result. Deep down, I really wanted to see Grewal have a shot at the Olympics, but his case revealed substantial weaknesses in the testing procedures. He was almost certainly guilty of the drug infraction, given that he had admitted drinking tea laced with ephedrine, but, luckily for him, he happened to have taken the “right” medication that confused the results and the laboratory staff was not smart enough to realize it.
Afterward, Coors Classic promoter Mike Aisner was quoted by Velo-news as saying, “I feel now in retrospect the way the whole thing has been handled with the Alexi trial that it worked itself out for the best. That they found the proper loophole without damaging the legitimacy of the Coors Classic test.” This was typical Aisner malarkey, of course. The appeals jury had actually concluded that the “Coors Classic test” had been incompetently administered.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing
I was fortunate to be able to get Phil Voxland to appoint a makeshift jury of appeals, given that that I had just concluded a political shoot-out with him a short time before. Voxland had earlier shown outstanding political savvy in getting himself elected USCF President by a group that thought they were selecting a puppet. A long-lived political cabal based in the New York-New Jersey area had managed to control the USCF Presidency continuously from the time the organization was founded in 1920 until 1982. There were a number of explanations for their ongoing success, most of them crooked, but that is another story.
The cabal had passed the presidency around among its own members for all but 9 years out of the organization’s 62 year history. Cooperative directors from St. Louis and Milwaukee were permitted to fill those brief periods. In 1982, President Mike Fraysse decided not to run for office again, even though he had another year of eligibility. He evidently realized that he couldn’t stay in office through the next Olympics anyway because of the constitutional maximum of four years in office without a break.
Phil Voxland, a computernik on the staff of the University of Minnesota, came under consideration as a potential replacement. In his earlier dealings with the Board, Voxland gave the impression of being a rather meek individual; just the kind that the cabal could easily control. When they eventually settled on Voxland as their candidate, I was smiling to myself. I had worked enough with Phil to know that he was a lot smarter than anyone in the cabal. I figured that they were in for a surprise.
It didn’t take long to happen. As soon as Voxland was elected, he became his own man and started fiddling the cabal and everyone else with obfuscations and ambiguities. This caused considerable consternation among those who thought they were going to be pulling the strings. I supported nearly all of Voxland’s programs, but I noticed in 1983 that he was beginning to be afflicted with a common disorder of higher office: delusions of grandeur. He started trying to bypass the rules by personally appointing committees for which Board of Directors’ approval was required under the Bylaws and by attempting to usurp power in other ways.

Olympic Scheming
The Federation had been preparing for some time for participation in the 1984 Olympics by both athletes and race officials. There had been a number of training courses for riders given at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs during 1983-84 and two courses were given for UCI National Commissaires (officials qualified to work on international races)
in anticipation of the need for support officials at the Olympics.
Late in 1983, President Voxland received a request from the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) to nominate 10 National Commissaires for the Olympics. The Board of Control, which I chaired at that time, expected this and we planned to select from among the people who qualified themselves by attending one of the National Commissaires training courses. After the second such course there would be 41 to choose from.
Just before the Board of Directors’ meeting in January 1984, Voxland told me that he had decided to nominate the Olympic officials himself! I pointed out to him that he was out of line; that one of the responsibilities of the Board of Control, as listed in the Bylaws, was to “establish policies and standards for certification and appointment of race officials.”
Voxland’s argument was that the request had been sent to him, which meant that the LAOOC was asking him personally to do the nominating. I said “Who-in-Hell did you expect them to send it to? You are the President and one of your jobs is to direct outside requests to the appropriate body within the Federation.” Voxland continued to argue that it was a personal communication to him, not a request to the USCF. I said something unprintable and walked away.
I began planning for the selection of race officials to work all of the major events that year, including the Olympics. I sent out a list of events to all Category 1 and 2 officials and invited applications. I also formed a subcommittee to select appointees. It was composed of Board of Control members who did not wish to be considered themselves. Though I would have liked to work the Olympics, it would have been a conflict-of-interest to put myself there. Besides, doing the selection of other commissaires properly took precedence over my personal interests.
Phil Voxland telephoned a few weeks later, saying that he had decided on a list of nominees for the Olympic commissaire positions and that he wanted to read them to me. I said it that was not his responsibility and that he should stop intruding on Board of Control business. Essentially ignoring my remarks, he read me a list of names. I told him that I recognized some of them as being qualified officials and others I didn’t know anything about. I further remarked that if he proceeded with this foolishness, it would result in severe embarrassment to the Federation.
Voxland apparently sent his list to the LAOOC a short time later, but didn’t have the guts to send me a copy. I heard about it through the grapevine and promptly sent a letter to LAOOC, with a copy to Voxland, warning them not to act on Voxland’s letter because it was an unauthorized communication. Nevertheless, LAOOC sent out letters to the people on Voxland’s list, inviting them to work at the Olympics. A number of officials who were not on his list then initiated a lawsuit against the Federation, alleging that improper selection procedures had been used. They were right, of course.

Kicking the President’s butt
Things came to a head in the Spring of 1984, when several members of the cabal and friends signed a petition requesting a special meeting of the USCF Board of Directors. It took only 5 directors at that time to call such a meeting. Their goal was to fire both Voxland and Prouty, put one of their own people in the presidency, and find a more malleable Executive Director.
Mike Fraysse, who was Secretary of the Federation, arranged to hold the meeting in Chicago instead of the usual location, Colorado Springs. Chicago had the advantage from his viewpoint that it was much closer to the East Coast, so that those who had organized the conspiracy would not have to travel so far, and that the Executive Director would not have local office support. Unfortunately, holding the special meeting there instead of the Olympic Training Center cost the USCF (i.e. the riders) something over $10,000 more because of the extra cost of travel, food, and accommodations. Of course, mundane matters such as that were of little concern to those bent on a coup.
Dave Prouty took the precaution of having his lawyer scrutinize the meeting notice. The lawyer’s written opinion was that that it did not meet USCF constitutional requirements, hence the meeting couldn’t conduct any business. When we met on May 5, it became apparent that the conspirators didn’t have enough votes to bring about an overthrow anyway, so eventually everyone was persuaded to have an official meeting, despite the improper notice, given that we had come all that way at great expense.
I didn’t want to overthrow either Voxland or Prouty, but I did want to zap Voxland on the Olympic commissaires issue, so I mounted an attack. It was an easy victory; the Board adopted a resolution stating unequivocally that it was the Board of Control’s responsibility to select the race officials who were to assist at the Olympic Games.
My committee proceeded with the selection of 10 officials and forwarded their names to the LAOOC. I had obtained a copy of Voxland’s list in the meantime but had carefully not read it in order to avoid being influenced. As it turned out, half of those on Voxland’s list were also on our list. Nearly all of the differences were attributable to an oversight by Voxland: he had selected several officials who had very little track experience. Given that the commissaires were to spend most of their time working at the track, those selected should all have had substantial experience in that venue.
After the LAOOC was notified of the USCF Board of Directors’ decision and received my list of nominees, they proposed a compromise: to appoint the union of the two lists. I accepted, recognizing that someone would certainly sue if it wasn’t handled that way. Thus it was that we had 15 U.S. commissaires at the L.A. Olympics instead of 10.

Do roads need to be directed?
Late in 1983, USCF President Phil Voxland and Vice President Mike Fraysse were appointed by FIAC as, respectively,
Chef du Piste and Chef du Route of the Olympic cycling events, which translate roughly to Director of the Track and Director of the Road. They seemed to be honorary appointments designed to keep cycling officials of the host country in the stands and out of trouble.
Mike Fraysse wasn’t satisfied with that — he wanted to be manager of the U.S. Olympic Cycling Team, a position that USCF staff physiologist Ed Burke also coveted. Ignoring conflict-of-interest, as usual, Fraysse pulled all the political strings within reach and got the job. Burke then lodged an appeal of this decision and lost. Even though Fraysse got the job, Burke was allowed to tag along in a lesser capacity and the two of them worked together on getting themselves and others into a heap of trouble.
Inasmuch as Mike Fraysse relinquished his appointment as Chef du Route, FIAC subsequently appointed me to that position, based on a recommendation from Voxland. They apparently felt that I had shown a substantial capacity for making trouble and that this would neutralize me.
Reacting to Fraysse’s conduct, Phil Voxland subsequently proposed a new bylaw that would prohibit directors from taking national team positions unless there was no one else who was qualified. It was passed by the USCF House of Delegates later that year, but would have no effect on Fraysse’s appointment. However, in September 1987, the Board of Directors voted to remove that restriction on themselves, so that they could again become world travelers at the expense of the Federation. I have arranged to have this conflict-of-interest restriction put on the agenda of the 1988 House of Delegates meeting in the hope that it will be re-imposed. [It was!]

Showdown at Mission Viejo
After months of planning, scheming, and back-stabbing, an assortment of bike racers including Alexi Grewal, a bloated number of race officials, and an assortment of useless dignitaries gathered on a sunny day at the suburban town of Mission Viejo, California, just north of the famous San Juan Capistrano Mission. We were disappointed that the Eastern Bloc countries had declined to come, apparently applying tit-for-tat in response to President Carter’s foolish political gambit that resulting in the U.S. withdrawal from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
In my capacity as Chef du Route I soon found that there were some important decisions to be made in the V.I.P. area
where I was ensconced: they had one of the greatest collections of beer from around the world that I had ever seen, making it very hard to decide what to drink next.
The first time that I sat in the canopied grandstand at the finish line, some ushers rushed up and offered hors d’oeurvres. I didn’t understand why they were being so attentive until I later looked at the seat I was in and saw the label: “Archduke .” When a distinguished looking gentleman came in and sat just behind me, I decided it was time to casually stroll out for another beer, then take a ride around the race course in the follow car behind the pack in the women’s race.
The course appeared to provide an excellent test and required some bike handling here and there. I was most impressed with the many thousands of enthusiastic cycling fans around the entire route. I got back to the finishing line in time to see a glorious sprint finish in which U.S. riders Rebecca Twigg and Connie Carpenter broke away from the lead group and finished together for gold and silver, with Connie throwing her bike forward at the last moment to nip Rebecca, just as her husband Davis Phinney had taught her. There was a great photo taken just beyond the finish that later appeared in Velo-news, showing Connie kissing Rebecca’s cheek as they coasted down.
The men’s race was run in the hotter part of the day. I took a tour or two with the men’s pack, but finally decided that I could see better by watching the video monitors in the finish area, which showed the race from every aspect. I recall that Davis Phinney and Alexi Grewal were in the lead group as they started the last lap. On a sharp climb about halfway around, Grewal broke to a lead of 20 meters or so, but he was soon joined by Steve Bauer of Canada. The two then started pulling away from the other leaders. Having seen these two sprint against each other a number of times before, I was fairly certain that Alexi didn’t stand a chance to win. Bauer had an amazing sprint that he used to consistently blow away all North American riders other than Davis Phinney.
I was prepared to see Bauer win as they began their sprint up the final 200 meter ascent to the finish, but suddenly Alexi looked as if he had rocket assistance — he jumped away and finished with a clear lead. Under hindsight, there appeared to be three factors that made this sprint turn out differently from all the earlier ones: (1) it was a fairly steep climb to the finish, which favored Grewal’s climbing ability over Bauer’s raw speed, (2) Bauer apparently chose too large a gear and couldn’t spin it on the ascent, and (3) most important, Grewal seemed to reach down deeper than he had ever done before in that final burst. Thus, the loner from Colorado who had overcome coaching antipathy and a suspension for drug-taking had won himself a gold medal. Alexi seemed to thrive on adversity.
Equally important, Alexi passed the drug test at the Olympics. He mentioned to the press that he wasn’t drinking Chi-Power any more. The rest of the Olympic cycling events also went rather well, on the whole. U.S. riders ended up taking four gold, three silver, and two bronze medals in cycling. However, this sunny outcome soon came under a cloud.
[1] “Grewal: `I made a stupid mistake’,” Velo-news, Vol. 13, No. 12, Aug. 10, 1984.
[2] Ed Pavelka, “`Hearts beat fast’ for unforgettable week,” Velo-news, Vol. 13, No. 13, Aug. 24, 1984.

Upcoming Archival Material

The news of Tom Zirbel’s positive test for DHEA was a shock to many, even those of us at Pappillon with a more cynical view of the sport (hardened by experience). But, with only an “A”-sample result and no B, let alone an arbitration hearing, there still exists the possibility that Zirbel will prove his innocence.

No one enjoys watching the unmasking of their heroes as sporting frauds, and many will continue to believe in a doper’s innocence long after circumstantial evidence says otherwise, but before the final verdict is delivered (be it by USADA or CAS). One of our contributors had this to say on the matter:

“[Innocent-because-he-is-nice fan says:] ‘I just don’t believe that a //BLANK// would cheat…it can’t be true…!

Please insert the following for //BLANK//, as you see fit:

– Nice Guy
– Amish dude
– Cancer Survivor
– Well-educated person
– Guy who swore he was clean to Congress
– Father
– Son
– Mother of two
– Person who went on Oprah
– Hero to millions
– Christian
– etc. etc. etc.

I’ve heard it all, man. You can’t believe anyone anymore.”

Now if that’s not cynical, we don’t know what is! In the spirit of “we’ve heard it all before,” Pappillon will soon run a series of old articles on doping from the 1980’s to highlight an era of our sport’s history in this country that many – unfortunately – would rather soon forget. We’re not embarking upon this to air dirty laundry, but rather, to remind the US cycling scene that nice guys do dope – even when they’re wearing the stars-and-stripes, and hell, even if what they did technically wasn’t doping at the time.

Zirbel: What a Waste of a Great Career

VeloResults UK laments the Zirbel Affair, as Ed Hood writes:

Fourth in the Worlds Elite TT, second only to Zabriskie in the US TT champs and with a Garmin contract neatly signed. But scratch all of the above and file under, “Another one bites the dust !” albeit the ‘B’ sample might just be ‘clean.’ We asked Paul Coats, who’s a lecturer at Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences, for an expert view.

Zirbel, Jesus who knows these days!

Seems a strange one though, as I mentioned to you when you asked me about Landis; testosterone or any of the androgens are only useful for recovery.

And you can beat the test if you are smart and most pros are, or at least they have someone keeping them right.

Long gone are the days of using steroids, too easily detected. Only dumb asses get caught on test these days, my gran mother knows that. DHEA is a pro hormone and is metabolised to more active testosterone, produced naturally and can also be taken as supplement.

Its readily available to buy on internet; first Google hit:

The problem with supplements used in body building is that they add DHEA without listing it.

Thus making the customer think the product is great and they buy more.

This was a big problem a couple years ago; in the USA there were a few well documented cases of track athletes testing positive due to protein supplements which were contaminated (so the manufacturer said) with DHEA.

Now all the reputable supplement manufacturers provide test results to show their products are free from substances that may produce positive result.

Zirbel will know what he has taken, he clearly has tested positive and unless there is a total screw up his B sample will be positive.

It would be useful if the numbers were presented; then we could see how much was in his system.

He states on Cycling News he knows nothing and is ignorant of all this kind of thing.

Well, we know all pros know this game inside out and he is seasoned pro.

Diet will be a major factor in his training and I’m sure he knows exactly what supplements and food he has taken, so what’s happened?

1) His body produces high DHEA, ok, why not tested high before? So unlikely.

2) Someone spiked his recovery drink, wild claim, possible but unlikely.

3) He took a supplement contaminated with DHEA, possible yes it happened in the past, but nowadays quality supplements come with quality control, also he’s probably taking the same supplements as others on his Bissel team – they have not tested positive.

Unless he has his own supplements; but as mentioned he will know what he takes and could provide this to authorities to check for DHEA contamination and, in a way, help explain the situation.

4) He is a dumb ass – applying Occam’s razor principle (the simplest explanation or strategy tends to be the best one) 4 seems the most likely.

We will likely never know the truth; but if 4 is correct, what a waste of a great career and potential great 2010 with Garmin.

I cant believe someone at his level can test positive for DHEA, its not like EPO or CERA, it has no big benefits but carries the same penalty

Paul Coats (PhD)Lecturer Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences.

‘waste of a great career’ – for sure, Paul.

With thanks to Paul for his time and expertise.  

[Editor’s note: And thanks to VeloResults UK for making this information available to the readers of Pappillon. We encourage you to visit both sites regularly.]

Tom Zirbel Tests Positive for DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

I don’t know Tom Zirbel as a person so I can’t speak to his character, and I have no first-hand knowledge of his supplement use or medical care (if he received any), let alone whether or not he actually ingested DHEA. But if his B-sample comes back positive or he otherwise fails to clear his name, his world is going to implode, and it won’t be pretty. reports, “Tom Zirbel has announced he tested positive in an anti-doping test conducted by the United States Anti Doping Association (USADA) following the US Pro time trial championships on August 29, 2009. The A-sample returned positive for an endogenous steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Zirbel awaits the response of the B sample. ‘I want to inform the cycling community that an ‘A’ sample of mine from a urine test conducted by USADA on Aug. 29, 2009 after the US Pro TT has tested positive for exogenous DHEA,’ Zirbel said. ‘I have not yet received notification from USADA on the findings of the ‘B’ sample, but I expect to receive word any day now.’…”

I can empathize with what Zirbel might feel then, should the B-sample come back positive, as you all know that my own career ended when I was just 31 and was caught doping – which was devastating. Worse, almost no one could understand that, even though I’d brought it on myself to a large degree by doping shamelessly for five years, the feeling of being ripped from the womb of cycling left me so disoriented and adrift that life temporarily lost all meaning and hope. So if Tom doped and is found guilty and sanctioned – or if he didn’t dope but is still sanctioned because of a false positive – I want him to know that he’s not alone and there are other cyclists who can understand the hell in which he’ll find himself and can offer their support. Myself included.

Tom’s case isn’t being adjudicated in the US criminal justice system, so the operative theory isn’t “Innocent until Proven Guilty” and given what I know about the sophistication of doping in cycling, the ease with which controls can be thwarted, the capacity of humans to lie, cheat and steal to get to satisfy their ambition, and the fallibility of even the most pious, saintly men, of course I think it’s possible that he doped. However, it’s also possible that it’s a false positive, though the statistical likelihood of such an anomaly is slight, if I remember correctly.

If Tom is going to first be tried in a court of public opinion, well, then he sure sounds guilty when he says something as disingenuous as “I didn’t knowingly ingest any DHEA,” “I’m ignorant about these things, I didn’t know what DHEA was until I was first notified about my A sample positive.” [ref] Hey, guess what? I didn’t knowingly ingest the steroid (probably some brand of Testosterone Undecanoate ) that led to my positive urinalysis, though it’s entirely possible that it was there because my team gave me a doping product that metabolized into 6α-OH-androstenedione or 6β-OH-androsterone. Furthermore, it is utterly unbelievable that a professional like Tom Zirbel who earns his living from the bike and who would eventually negotiate a contract with a ProTour team for 2010, wouldn’t know what DHEA was as of late-summer 2009, when it was THE doping product that effectively ended Tyler Hamilton’s career – in APRIL 2009.

BUT, by the same token, and in Tom’s defense, the lab very well have made an error. Just like I didn’t knowingly ingest anything that could have left the metabolites 6α-OH-androstenedione or 6β-OH-androsterone, I had taken five other doping products that an accredited-lab failed to detect. I hope people consider both scenarios while we wait for the official disclosure. USADA is a very professional, well-run, seemingly fair organization, and they don’t strike me as being the type of people who persecute athletes. In fact, USADA is scrupulous about protecting the privacy of accused athletes, such that when I called a contact there today to discuss the “Zirbel Situation,” he wasn’t even aware that the cyclist had gone ahead and preemptively announced his A-sample result. USADA would have kept that private until well after the B-sample was analyzed (assuming it was also positive and the athlete chose to continue to defend against the charges). A lab, however, that made an error in analyzing a sample or reporting its findings would have a strong disincentive to publicly admit that and an unethical employee or lab director might hang an athlete out to dry. Might.

I know for a fact that a rider was positive for EPO when he won a US National Criterium Championship – he took a full-strength, non-micro dose within the time frame during which he should have been positive. In fact, his “A” sample WAS positive, but his “B” was declared negative because the EPO levels were interpreted to fall just below the cut-off for a definitive positive. So the labs can make mistakes. Guilty go free (only to be caught later). Some riders cheat. I hope most do not. But to be in Tom’s shoes right now is to be in hell and I wish him and his family the best regardless of what the truth of the matter is.

WADA Social Science Research

According to its website, WADA is committed to improving evidence-based doping prevention strategies through social science research. Understanding the fundamental differences between athletes who choose to compete clean and those who resort to doping or why some athletes decided to dope – despite being well aware of the harmful effects of doping and of anti-doping rules – will assist in ensuring that doping prevention strategies are effective and efficient. In fact, I contributed to this research myself after testing positive and owning-up to my involvement in doping, and was honored to have the opportunity to do so.

WADA’s Social Science Research Grant Program was created to ensure that preventive anti-doping education programs were designed using an evidence-based approach. Since the creation of the Program in 2005, 26 projects have been funded with awards nearing the US$730,000 mark.

Target Research Program
To further ensure effective doping prevention strategies, WADA’s Education Committee identifies specific areas that they feel require additional evidence in the way of social science research. Several years worth of WADA-funded research is available for review online here. One study of particular interest to this author, The Development and Validation of a Doping Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (DABS), is summarized below, and a subsequent post will present the full results of the study.

The Development and Validation of a Doping Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (DABS)PROJECT SUMMARY

“Athletes’ use of prohibited ergogenic substances for performance enhancement is a form of cheating behaviour which can jeopardise their health and careers. Unfortunately, few studies have attempted to understand the psychological mechanisms underlying such behaviour (Roberts et al., 2004). This oversight is unfortunate because anti-doping measures cannot be fully effective unless they address the reasons why athletes engage in cheating in the first place. Against this background, Moran, Guerin, McCaffrey & MacIntyre (2004) conducted a qualitative study of Irish athletes’ understanding of cheating in sport. They discovered that cheating was perceived to occur along a continuum of behaviour ranging from less serious activities such as “smart play” (or gamesmanship), at one end, to the use of banned substances to enhance performance (doping), at the other end. They also found that cheating was rarely perceived as stemming from an individual decision by an athlete but was attributed to a particular type of coaching environment characterised by a “win at all costs” approach. Given such findings, the next step in this programme of research is to explore the “doping” end of the cheating continuum by developing a theoretically-based, self-report instrument which can measure not only athletes’ attitudes to doping but also their propensity to engage in doping behaviour. This scale development task requires three separate studies using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodology (see Biddle, Markland, Gilbourne, Chatzisarantis & Sparkes, 2001) and is guided by the following research questions. First, what are Irish athletes and coaches’ perceptions of, and attitudes towards, doping in sport? This question will be investigated using a series of semi-structured interviews with athletes and coaches/managers from sports (e.g., athletics, cycling and weightlifting) in which doping is known to be prevalent.
Of particular interest in this study will be the attitudes and experiences of athletes who have been investigated for alleged breaches of ant-doping regulations. Second, based on the attitudes elicited by our interviews, what is the best way to design a theoretically-grounded, objectively scored, self-report scale to measure athletes’ attitudes to doping and their propensity to engage in doping behaviour? This question will be answered by rigorous psychometric analysis. Finally, what combination of relevant psychological variables produces the best prediction of a proclivity to engage in doping? Among the predictor variables to be investigated here will be moral reasoning (Tod & Hodge, 2001), perceived motivational/coaching climate (Ommundsen, Roberts, Lemyre & Treasure, 2003), attributional style (e.g., Hanrahan, Grove & Hattie, 1989) and perceived importance of competition (as there is evidence that athletes are more likely to engage in doping when the outcome is perceived as especially important). Although each of these variables has been associated with cheating in sport, no study has yet combined them statistically using multiple regression analysis to predict a propensity to engage in doping behaviour. In summary, the purpose of our study is to develop a theoretically-based, psychometrically sound, self-report scale provisionally entitled the “Doping Attitudes and Behaviour” Questionnaire to assess athletes’ attitudes to, and propensity to engage in, doping behaviour in sport.” Click here to read the study in its entirety. Study is in PDF format.

I Will (Metaphorically) Immolate Myself for Clean Sport

“Regardless of what you think of [Joe] Papp as a person, or how you rate him as a cyclist, whatever scorn he still faces should be countered by respect – or at least begrudging appreciation – for the man’s willingness to immolate himself at the alter of clean-sport.”Me [Editor’s Note: J. Danek = cousin to Joe Papp]
[In a recent email blast from Jim Ferstle, there was a reprint of post in which] Twisted Spoke presents an interesting take on the interview given by Pappillon’s own Joe Papp to Bike Pure’s Myles McCorry. Perhaps I say interesting because for once it’s commentary devoid of hate or vitriol, though it is chock-full of disappointment. And rightly so, for Papp let down his legions of fans when it was revealed that he’d been doping for five years at the UCI level.
The entire post is reprinted below, but our favorite paragraph is the following (emphasis mine):

“One of the ironies about Papp is that reading his diary entries, he seemed like such a straightforward, honest guy. The opposite of Alejandro Valverde or Alexandre Vinokourov, the Spaniard loaded down with doping allegations, the Kazak defiant and unrepentant after his two year suspension. But when you hear Papp describe the rocket boost in performance, you understand the intensity of the temptation.”

It just goes to show you that doping isn’t confined to former Soviet republics or the clinics of modern Spain – or even to that most elite level of Grand Tour cycling – rarefied air once inhabited by the likes of Hamilton, Ullrich, Basso and Diluca.

Joe Papp was – and IS – a nice guy who loved racing his bike and writing about his adventures more than anything else in the world. I exchanged text messages with him before I went ahead with this post and he told me that one of the things he regrets most from doping (besides cheating his competitors, dishonoring his sport, humiliating his family, etc) was depriving you all, his readers (both of Pappillon and his diaries) the pleasure and momentary escape that came from reading about bike racing at the UCI level in far-off exotic locales… Vino’ and others might dope for money; riders like Andreu might have doped just to be able to do their jobs; and then there are riders like Papp who – while earning an income from cycling, certainly – doped primarily to be able to continue in the sport they loved, when it was being overrun by athletes who were “on” full medical “programs.” It doesn’t excuse Joe’s doping, but hopefully the Bike Pure interview, and Twisted Spoke’s follow-up analysis, helps to contextualize it.
As Joe himself told me, “I miss competing in cycling more than anything – the training, the camaraderie, the travel, the chance to experience new cultures and exotic lands; representing my country (especially in the Pan Ams) and competing in the most beautiful sport in the world, still wide-eyed and with a shit-eating-grin plastered across my face. I’d give my left (ice)ball to be able to have a chance to set things right, but I fear that the only thing left for my with respect to cycling is to forever represent the ‘This Could Happen to You’ horror story that will be what coaches and uncorrupted directors and genuine, honest riders cite when encouraging young athletes to strongly reject doping as a means to success.” 

Let’s hope that there is more to Papp’s future than that…

Twisted Spoke’s: Joe Papp fell off his bike, a casualty of the doping culture in cycling.
“His interview with Myles McCorry for Pezcycling is probably the best story I’ve read about how and why a rider crosses the line. You get all the angles, the rationales, naiveté, remorse and the painful aftermath wisdom that comes from first hand suffering.
We first discovered Joe Papp a few years ago when he wrote an engaging racing diary for cyclingnews. He wasn’t a famous rider competing in the big monuments of the sport but he was passionate about bike racing. He wrote well and had a skill for taking us inside the races, the personalities, the life of a pro racing gypsy, turning up in Cuba or Turkey or a smaller stage race in Italy or Spain.
So it was a mild shock to read he’s been doping for five years before he was caught and came clean. By the time of his failed drug test, he was doing his best to support the entire pharmacological industry — EPO, human growth hormone, testosterone, insulin, steroid and amphetamines. No doubt he popped a few aspirin, too.
The drug deal reached over 100 products, a program carefully managed by his Italian team — which would later deny any role or knowledge of Papp’s athletic enhancement. It feels like a very old story that never changes — from the Festina Affair to Operacion Puerto.
One of the ironies about Papp is that reading his diary entries, he seemed like such a straightforward, honest guy. The opposite of Alejandro Valverde or Alexandre Vinokourov, the Spaniard loaded down with doping allegations, the Kazak defiant and unrepentant after his two year suspension. But when you hear Papp describe the rocket boost in performance, you understand the intensity of the temptation.
“At first it brought me back up to my previous level of competitiveness, but the more I took that’s when I moved up a level- it felt amazing. 12 or 13% — enough of a difference to block out any ethical or health issues. Enough to win.” When a rider as thoughtful and articulate as Papp decides to dope, you realize how easily a younger athlete is lead to the needle.
It also nearly killed him. While awaiting his B sample test results, Papp crashed hard in the Tour of Turkey. At the hospital they removed “a mass of EPO-damaged sludge” from his left buttock. Doctors back in the states told Papp the blender mix of blood thinners and EPO could have easily killed him. That was certainly the terminal effect on his cycling career.
Once caught, Papp hoped lawyers would somehow locate the Hail Mary loophole but the endgame was not different than Floyd Landis or Tyler Hamilton: destroyed reputation, broken marriage, financial hardship and depression. A UCI ban was the least of his problems. It’s like the old Neil Young song — “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done. A little part of it in everyone. But every junkie’s like a setting sun.”
UCI anti-doping queen Annie Gripper says they’re winning the war on doping. Articulate and visionary team directors like Garmin’s Jonathan Vaughters think the biological passport is a huge step toward clean cycling. It’s a long hard climb, maybe tougher than Alpe d’Huez. “You can change behavior quickly but the deep culture will take a few more years yet,” said Gripper.
In an article about Lance Armstrong in this week’s New York Times, there was a reminder of that pervasive culture. “Five of the eight riders who shared the Tour podium with Armstrong in his winning years served doping bans at some point in their careers. Another two were allegedly tied to doping rings.” Those are not percentages you build a cleaner sport on.
We wish Joe Papp well. Like the NFL players who sell their ligaments, bones and risk life long damage from multiple concussions to make a living, Papp found himself caught in the grinder. He seems like a good guy that loved cycling too much. He wanted to be at the front of the climb and decided there was only one way to do that.”  – Twisted Spoke
For Bike Pure, Myles McCorry wrote of his interview with Joe:
“I witnessed a rider recovering from years stuck in a system where cheating and lying are not only the norm but pampered and encouraged. To recover one self-belief and ones honour is an individual battle. We can only judge on the harm Joe has done to the sport and his efforts for reparation.”
Likewise, [as his cousin] I’ve heard Joe’s lectures to university students at such schools as Chatham and Slippery Rock, and know that the presentation he gave at the headquarters of USADA this summer was considered by several staff members there to be the most-engaging, authentic, and motivating interaction they’d ever had with a reformed-doper who was accepting responsibility for the terrible things he did, and was actively working to prevent other young athletes from following the same dark road on which he lost himself. Regardless of what you think of Papp as a person, or how you rate him as a cyclist, whatever scorn he still faces should be countered by respect – or at least begrudging appreciation – for the man’s willingness to immolate himself at the alter of clean-sport.

"Are you a doctor?" – The Legacy of Being a Cyclist in Europe at the time of Puerto

Q: “Are you a doctor?”
A: “No, I was a pro cyclist.”

Answer given in response to a real doctor’s question following my question while in the ER with a friend about what gauge needle he was going to use to drain an abscess (which itself could have been the result of a poorly-administered IM injection). I asked if he’d be using a 22g or a 21g or what, and while he answered almost immediately, without thinking, then he must have THOUGHT about it and was surely wondering, “Hmmm, not very common for a patient’s friend to be asking needle-gauge questions.” And the sad truth is that back in the late-1990’s and early-2000’s, any cyclist worth his lot who was enmeshed in the doping culture knew exactly what size needle to use, when, and what gauge was best for an IM injection into his tush; what his preferred butterfly kit was; even what size needle to use to draw the liquid (EPO, corticoid, anabolic, actovegin, whatever…) out of a given ampuoule and into the syringe, before switching to a new needle for injecting.

Like David Millar, who revealed in his interview with NY Velocity, “I knew I was going to get caught. I wanted to get caught, it was my only way out,” I realize now that when I’d reached the point where I could administer an IV injection to myself with greater skill than a trained nurse, just to ride faster on my bike, I both wanted and needed to get out – even if I couldn’t admit that to myself at the time.